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Leaders with the Vance County Department of Social Services released results of their Christmas Cheer campaign on Monday, noting one local school as stepping up in a big way this year.

Director Antonia Pedroza said more than 300 families and senior citizens received clothing, personal care items, toys and food this holiday season through Christmas Cheer.

Contributions from Henderson Collegiate Charter School included more than 1,000 donated items and 95 hand-decorated gift bags, prompting Pedroza to single them out for a special note of thanks among many other helping organizations, churches, businesses and individuals.

Of Henderson Collegiate school leader and co-founder Eric Sanchez, Pedroza said, “Mr. Sanchez, take a bow.”

“The Henderson Collegiate school just seemed to go above and beyond,” Pedroza said. “It was a joy to work with them. It is so gratifying to know that these children are excited about helping others in their community.”

Pedroza said the Christmas Cheer campaign is a highlight of the year for the employees of her department. The work is volunteer, on top of normal duties, but it is a morale lifter to do it.

“We have a very giving staff,” she said. “It is a lot of work in a short amount of time, but it is a wonderful time of year. It lifts the spirits of all of our staff as well as all the families who we help.”

The Christmas Cheer campaign received requests for help in late October, and they added more requests since that time on the basis of demonstrated need.

Two dozen DSS employees formed the core group of Christmas Cheer volunteers through the committee they formed, led by Vicky Cox, the DSS Child Support Supervisor.

As of last week’s count, they raised about $2,400 from employees and assisting sponsors.

The number of families and senior citizens receiving help as of last week reached 308. More work has been done since.

The DSS Christmas Cheer campaign’s collaboration with Toys-4-Tots resulted in 134 children being referred to them, and each of those children received two toys for Christmas.

Cox reported in a written statement to DSS staff, city and county leaders that each outreach package to children included gifts, clothing items, a bag of non-perishable food items based on household size and a hand-decorated bag of personal care items.

“Our goal has been to provide something for each family that has requested help,” Cox wrote. “Our hope is that each family feels some amount of relief from their worries as a result of our giving. We also hope that each child wakes up on Christmas morning smiling because of a gift that someone here or in our community was willing to give.”

The bag decorating was a special project by the fourth-graders at Henderson Collegiate, according to Cox. She added that she also was honored to work with them, and she believed the student involvement was an opportunity for them to learn valuable life lessons that they could carry with them.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.

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